- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

Call it a tale of two Phils. Phil Hochberg is hanging up his microphone after 17 years as the Redskins' public address announcer at RFK Stadium and FedEx Field, and Phil Wood is still wondering when and if he'll get behind one again.

Hochberg, a D.C. native, was only the Redskins' third stadium P.A. man, following Bill Malone and Ray Michael. He took over in 1984 after handling the team's press box P.A. from 1962 through 1967 and 1969 through 1983. He also worked the stadium P.A. for the Washington Senators at RFK and the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium.

The Redskins will acknowledge Hochberg's long service by giving him a lifetime pass and installing him in their Ring of Stars at FedEx at halftime of their home opener Sept. 16 against the Arizona Cardinals. "It's a thrill," said Hochberg, a lawyer by trade. "If I'd known they were going to treat me so nicely, I might have retired years earlier."

So why now? "It's just time," Hochberg said. "The question, after nearly 40 years, is whether I can go to a game and enjoy it if I'm not working."

Wood, meanwhile, has been off radio since January, when WTEM-AM shoved him to the sideline, although it continues to pay his salary. The reason, some have speculated, is that Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos might have demanded the ban as a condition of switching the club's Washington broadcasts from WTOP-AM to WTEM this season. Wood is known far and wide as a vociferous booster of baseball in the District.

The station finally made a move nearly two weeks ago in the form of a phone call to Wood from Bennett Zier, a vice president for the company that owns WTEM and several other area stations.

"Bennett told me, 'We want to get you back involved [in broadcasting],' " Wood said. "I said, 'Fine,' but since then I haven't heard anything."

Some listeners have wondered why Wood, long an expert on baseball history and tradition, has been out of earshot during a season when the station theoretically would be eager to increase its peripheral baseball programming. They're still waiting for an intelligent answer, if there is one.

Awards time

Kids in Trouble Inc., a District-based charity devoted to helping inner-city children, sang the praises of some local unsung heroes last night at its Playgrounds Legends reception at the Bohemian Caverns in Northwest.

The honorees included Furman Marshall, a member of the International Karate Hall of Fame and the founder of Black Ski, an organization with thousands of members worldwide.

Also saluted were bandleader Paul Hawkins, an outstanding playground basketball player; Gil Hoffman, an All-Star third baseman and later athletic director and deputy superintendent of D.C. public schools; and Earl Tildon, a standout playground pitcher.

Want more? How about Duck Thomas, a legendary playground athlete in baseball and basketball who played the latter with NBA all-timer Elgin Baylor?

Kids In Trouble also gave me a lifetime achievement award for coverage of athletics and athletes in town. It was presented by NFL Hall of Famer Willie Wood, which nicely completes the circle. In 1955, I presented Wood with an award at the old Armstrong High School as the Washington Daily News high school Athlete of the Year.

Oates remains cheery

Johnny Oates, one of baseball's best unemployed managers, isn't exactly having second thoughts about his resignation as manager of the Texas Rangers in May. In fact, he's more certain than ever that he did the right thing.

"I knew that it was going to be a dead-end street in a matter of time, and I thought I would be able to call my own shot," Oates said. "[My firing] was going to happen eventually anyway. I really believe it was. I think I did the right thing for everyone involved because of what was getting ready to happen. There was going to be division. It was going to be a no-win battle."

The same might be said of his tenure with the Baltimore Orioles, which ended in 1994 when the club announced his dismissal via a fax sent to media outlets. This wasn't exactly a surprise. Earlier, owner Peter Angelos had criticized him in a Washington newspaper. When Angelos subsequently apologized, the letter was addressed to "Johnnie Oats."

Despite his two failures, if that's what they were, Oates remains upbeat about managing again. "I'd like to give it one more shot," he said. "It would have to be a job with responsibility and accountability, something with pressure to get my juices flowing."

Well, we'll see.

Eminently quotable

Ted Williams on Mickey Mantle, in his new book, "My Life in Pictures": "He was the greatest single ballplayer of all the athletes I've ever met. He was as down to earth as anyone, as sweet a guy. Never had a braggadocios vein in his body. He could do everything. Hit farther than anybody, switch hitter. But he thought everybody in the world was better than him."

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